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Bush to Meet Sharon at White House Tuesday

By Paula Wolfson (VOA-White House)

President Bush meets Tuesday at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They will be discussing ways to move the Mideast peace process forward. This meeting is designed, in large part, to underscore the president's personal involvement in the peace process.

Four days after he welcomed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Bush will sit down for talks with Sharon. The Israeli leader is expected to detail steps that are sure to be welcomed by Abbas, including the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan said the planned release would improve relations between the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority and help facilitate progress to peace. But he went on to say that no one wants prisoners freed who have blood on their hands.

Another contentious issue on the agenda for the Bush-Sharon meeting is Israel's plan to build a fence between the Jewish State and the West Bank. President Bush has sharply criticized the fence.

Israel Cancels Ceremony for Fence Dividing Israelis and Palestinians

By VOA News

Israel has canceled an official ceremony to mark completion of the first section of a controversial fence between the Jewish state and the West Bank. No official explanation was given for the cancellation, which came hours after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Washington for talks Tuesday with President Bush. Last week, President Bush criticized the fence project, and Israeli media Monday said the ceremony was canceled to avoid upsetting the White House.

Also Monday, Israeli troops fired rubber bullets to break up protests at the fence site, near the West Bank village of Anin. Five pro-Palestinian activists, including one American, were reported wounded.

The fence issue is expected to be high on the agenda of Tuesday's talks, along with Israel's announcement of a planned release of more than 500 Palestinian prisoners. Palestinians have expressed fears the fence will be accepted as a de facto boundary for a future Palestinian state. Israeli settlers have complained the fence will cut off their easy access to Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli police said they suspect a missing soldier whose body was found Monday was abducted and killed by Palestinian militants. The young soldier had been missing for about a week. Police said they had intelligence reports of plans by militants to abduct or kill Israeli soldiers.

Poraz: Black Hebrews To Receive Citizenship


Minister of the Interior Avraham Poraz announced he has reached a final decision regarding the Black Hebrew community living in Dimona, in southern Israel. Poraz has decided to grant them citizenship. Poraz's predecessor Eli Yishai was unwilling to grant the non-Jewish community citizenship.

The Black Hebrews, a sect whose full name is "The Original African Hebrew Israelite Nation of Jerusalem," have two centers of activity: Chicago and Dimona. About 2,000 members, led by Ben Ami Carter, live in Israel-most of them in Dimona, and the rest in Arad and Mitzpei Ramon, with some others residing in other parts of the country.

The Black Hebrews acquired legal status in an agreement reached with the Ministry of the Interior in May 1990. According to that agreement, the Black Hebrews were initially granted tourist status with a B/1 visa that entitled them to employment; a year later they were given temporary resident status (A/5) for a period of five years.

Responding to the decision, National Religious Party Knesset member Shaul Yahalom stated that once again it is apparent that Mofaz of the pro-secular Shinui party prefers non-Jews - working towards the destruction of the State of Israel as a Jewish state.

Christopher Reeve Visits Israel in His Quest for Paralysis Treatment


Calling Israel the "world center" for research on paralysis treatment, Christopher Reeve set off for his first visit to the country this week, ISRAEL 21C reported. Over the course of his visit, Reeve will learn about Israeli advancements in the field of stem cell research related to paralysis and spinal cord injuries. The theater and film actor, who portrayed "Superman," suffered a horseback-riding accident in 1995 during an equestrian event that left him paralyzed from the neck down.

"I am looking forward to visiting Israel to learn more about their cutting edge paralysis research," Reeve said. "Israel is the center of some of the world's leading research. There are many new therapies in the pipeline as well as care strategies being employed that may also benefit millions of people around the world living with paralysis."

Reeve, chairman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, plans to meet with Israeli doctors and researchers working on remedies for paralysis. He is a strong supporter of stem cell research, which some experts believe may unlock a way of reversing the often-debilitating effects of spinal injuries, and believes a cure for paralysis is close at hand.

Reeve has specifically requested to meet with neuroimmunologist Michal Schwartz of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot. "Schwartz and some of her colleagues are doing particularly well in treating patients immediately after spinal cord injuries in what is called the acute phase," Reeve said. "If a person can be treated right away, within the first 10 days after the injury, it will have dramatic effect in what their life will be."

During his visit, Reeve is also planning to meet Israelis who have suffered similar injuries as he did, including Ethiopian immigrant Elad Wass who was a victim of a homicide bombing in Netanya, in May. The shrapnel that entered Wassa's abdomen left him paralyzed from the waist down. Wassa expressed a wish to meet the actor in a letter, saying that Reeve provided him with "hope and inspiration."

Reeve's itinerary includes stops at research centers, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, and centers for children with diseases and disabilities. He will meet with government leaders and will also tour the sights, including Yad Vashem and the Old City of Jerusalem.

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